WASHINGTON (Feb. 5)
Inna Begun urged Americans Thursday to help her husband, Iosif, who is now on a hunger strike in the Soviet Union’s Chistopol prison.
“I am very afraid for my husband’s life,” she said over the telephone from Moscow to some 100 Jewish leaders gathered on Capitol Hill for a Capitol Hill Action Day for Soviet Jewry, sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ). They were in a room in a Senate office building dominated by photographs of Begun and other Jewish Prisoners of Conscience.
Begun, 54, was sentenced in 1983 to seven years in a labor camp and five years internal exile for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” for teaching Hebrew. He had served two previous terms of internal exile. He and his wife have been seeking to emigrate to Israel since 1971.
Inna Begun said she had last seen her husband in August 1985 and his last letter to her was in December 1986. She said he has been on a hunger strike for three months.
Noting that some political prisoners have been freed, Inna Begun said she did not believe her husband would be released, as he will never agree to the demand that he admit that he is guilty of the charges.
She said she and her son, Boris, accompanied by other long-time refuseniks, would begin picketing Monday for two hours a day to demand that her husband be set free and that they be allowed to immigrate to Israel.
U.S. TO RAISE BEGUN’S PLIGHT
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D. Md.), co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe which monitors compliance with the Helsinki Accords, told Inna Begun that “The Congress of the United States is very aware of the plight of your husband. We are raising that plight in every possible forum that we can.”
Hoyer said he would raise the issue of Begun and other Soviet Jewish refuseniks with Soviet officials again when he returns to Vienna next week for the third review conference on the Helsinki Accords, known as the Conference on security and Cooperation in Europe.
Morris Abram, the NCSJ’s chairman, told Inna Begun that the people participating in the action day would “fan out” over Capitol Hill to describe Begun’s plight to members of the House and Senate. He expressed “outrage” that the Soviet Union arrests people for teaching Hebrew.
Hoyer later told the Jewish leaders that never before have so many Western nations taken on the Soviet Union over human rights. He said the Soviets are trying to isolate the human rights movement by playing on the “hunger for change” in East-West relations by many in the West.
JACKSON-VANIK MEASURE WON’T BE RESCINDED
Earlier, R. Spenser Oliver, counsel for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that at Vienna the Soviet Union is trying to split the talks on arms control and trade from human rights. But he stressed that the Helsinki review conferences has been the one forum where the Soviets have had to pay attention to human rights.
Oliver and Dr. John Hardt, associate director for research coordination at the Congressional Research Service, urged the participants to watch the new foreign trade bill being worked on by Congress. While both said that there is no chance that the Jackson-Vanik Amendment would be rescinded, efforts will be made by some to decrease restrictions on trade with the USSR.
There should be no change in the Jackson-Vanik Amendment “until we see real numbers go up” in emigration, Oliver stressed.